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Winter in Donetsk

Throughout the month of December I wondered if winter was ever going to arrive in Donestk.  Even though it was cold (by a Texans standards!), it was not as cold as it could have been.

As January 2012 rolled around, we had a few snow storms with a couple of heavy snowfalls.  Yet, after a few days, the temps would climb into the upper 30’s or so and the snow melted.  On January 13, I got on a train to go to western Ukraine and while it was cold, there was no snow on the ground.

All that changed as we traveled throughout Ukraine on a 22 hour ride to L’vov.  As we arrived in L’vov the snow was falling and it was decidedly cooler.  On the bus ride to our destination, the snow continued to fall.  It was a great trip to western UA and lots of snow and cold temps.

One phone call to Donetsk told me that temps had fallen and there was snow on the ground here as well.  When I arrived back in Donetsk on January 17, it was definitely colder and snow was on the ground.  Since then, it has snowed much more and the temps have fallen as well.

This morning I checked the temps online and it said that the current temp was zero F.  Thankfully, yesterday they sun was out all day and it was nice to talk a walk along Pushkina Boulevard to my first meeting of the day.  And, it appears the sun will shine again today.  Winter has finally arrived in Ukraine!

In western Ukraine

I have been in western Ukraine for the last few days and do not have regular internet.  Therefore, my usual Monday Morning Message will most likely appear on Tuesday night after I get home.

3M: Which celebration do you choose?

Eastern Europe celebrates Christmas according to the old Julian calendar date of January 7.  However, they celebrate New Years by the new Gregorian calender like most everyone else.

So, I went to church on January 7 to attend a Christmas Day celebration.  Toward the end of the service they had prepared a video that was taken at a local school.  The question: which celebration is more meaningful to you: New Years or Christmas?  Well, I knew what the bulk of the answers were going to be before they finished the video: New Years.

You see, Ukrainians, Russians and most of the former Soviet Union have huge celebrations on New Year’s eve or day.  They have a decorated tree for New Years so it is not called a “Christmas tree” like in the US.  (I am fully aware of some businesses trying to change the name of the tree to holiday…).  They give gifts, enjoy lots of food and beverages during their celebration as well.  Everything they do is tied around January 1.

So, seven days later when they celebrate Christmas, it is much more subdued with a few traditions as well.  One of those includes children going door to door to tell some story or sing a song and then get some kind of gift (candy or money).

By now, you probably have figured out which holiday is more meaningful to Ukrainians in the video: New Years.  There was only one person in the video that said that Christmas was more meaningful to them.  My heart was somewhat broken by the responses.

But it also caused me to ponder about Americans.  I know the vast majority of Americans would say Christmas is more meaningful.  However, suppose for a moment, that we placed more emphasis on New Years and gave gifts, had huge meals and all the traditions of Christmas and celebrated them on New Years.  Would most Americans still say that Christmas was more meaningful to them?

As we move into 2012, may we always remember the true reason, no matter the season.

3M: According to His Purpose

I am sure many of you have read Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Sunday morning I visited a church in Dnepropetrovsk and the assistant pastor preached from Romans 8:28-30.

Now, to be totally honest, it was one of those times where I did not make much sense of the sermon and it was extremely difficult for me to follow him.  (Being tired may have had something to do with it…)

Let’s take a look at the wording:  “And we know” indicates that Paul is speaking from previous experience.  God is already working in our lives.  Christians will suffer pain and disappointment.  But even at the worst times, God was and is working for our benefit.

“That for those who love God all things” means that by God’s great design God promises to look after people who love him and that means all things.  Those “things” can be through pain or persecution, rich or poor, or any other situation or crisis that may come.

“Work together for good… according to his purpose” indicates that all those situations that may interrupt our lives will work out for spiritual and eternal good.  Does it mean that I may understand it at the time?  No.  I have gone through painful situations that to this day, I don’t understand.  I don’t have to understand.  I trust that the Lord has/is/will use them to make me a stronger person.

Each of us will experience many pleasant and difficult situations in our lives.  When the difficult times comes (and they will come), we must be willing to walk through those situations, knowing that they are “according to his purpose.”



Can economics and politics ever be separated?

Wednesday morning I met with a group of professors at the Economics University.  We had planned to meet during their long break and enjoy tea and cake.

While we were enjoying catching up on all the summer activities, the head of the English department asked me if I had time to speak to some of their fifth year students.  All of them spoke English fairly well and so we had a pretty good discussion.

One professor asked that we not discuss politics, which caused us to have a conversation about economics can ever be divorced from politics.  I think political leaders have tremendous influence on a governments fiscal policy and therefore their political leanings have tremendous influence in the overall direction and shape of said country’s economic policy.

We discussed at length the situation in Europe today.  Greece continues down a slippery slope, and everyone is wondering if Spain and Italy will follow.  The German chancellor and French president are working hard to keep the Euro afloat.

We discussed the financial policies of Ukraine, including the passage of a new law that requires everyone to show their passport when exchanging money.  One student shared a story of a friend who exchanged 2,000 USD for Ukrainian hryvna.  Soon afterwards, the tax police sent this person a letter demanding taxes be paid on the money.

So, again our discussion came full circle and we were back at square one.  Can economics and politics ever be separate?  For me, the quick and short answer is no.  What do you think?

Back online…

Well, after almost a month without my computer, I am back “online.”  I was using a small netbook while my computer went to the US to get repaired.

All of my passwords are stored on this computer and trying to get online to update my blog proved to be difficult.  Even when I had the password reset, trying to use a computer that was 6×5 was tiring to my eyes and to my patience…

So, finally, after getting my computer back yesterday and having a few minutes I decided to get online and let everyone know I am still in Donestk.  There is a team here from Russellville, AR to do a sports camp.  The weather forecast calls for rain every day this week. Hopefully it won’t rain all day every day…

It’s good to be back!

Got my tickets!

Shortly after moving to Donetsk, I purchased some tickets to a football match.  While buying the tickets, they had advertisements up around the ticket booth about a FAN-ID card.  Purchase the card for 10 griven, then purchase tickets to two home games and you get priority for purchasing tickets to the Champions League.

Of course, the application has a place for your email and mobile numbers.  Since then, I get regular updates on the football team via email and info about tickets via SMS on my mobile.  I had purchased tickets to two home games so it gave me priority to purchase tickets to the UEFA Champions League.

Yesterday, I received an SMS from the team telling me that tickets would go on sale this morning for those with priority.  So, I went to the stadium expecting long lines, but was able to purchase 2 tickets to all three home games for the Champions League.  I was amazed at how easy it was.  My favorite area had already sold out, so I had to purchase in a different area.

I will not tell you to what lengths I had to go to to see Champions League games in Kiev a few years ago, and we could only purchase the tickets a few days before the match.  Amazingly, most good seats were gone, even if you went on the first morning that tickets were on sale.  Plus, you could only get tickets for one game at a time.

I am EXTREMELY impressed with the marketing of the Donetsk Shakhtar team.  They are using a variety of methods to keep people informed, even using new technology.

I am excited about seeing Arsenal from England in November.  That should be a great game.  I really like Shakhtar’s chances of getting into the knock out stages next spring.  Akhmetov (the owner and richest man in UA) is committed to putting a first class team on the field and shows it by going after players.

Now, I just hope I am able to get tickets to the biggest rivalry match between Shakhtar and Dynamo Kyiv in early October…

City of Roses: Donetsk

I made a trip to Donetsk on Friday to meet with several potential partners and to see the city.  Overall, my first impressions are incredibly favorable.

My supervisor and I flew to Donetsk and were met by a pastor who drove us to his church.  In most large cities, there is a Central Baptist Church, however, in most places, there is nothing “central” about its location.  It usually indicates the first church in the city.  They either bought or were given land to build, but their location is rarely in the center of the city.

Anatoliy took us to the church and as soon as we pulled up I recognized the place.  I have actually been to the church in 1995 and 1996.  In 1995, they hosted a large youth meeting with about 1,000 young people in attendance.  In 1996 I was visiting friends in Donetsk and preached during their morning service.

We met with Anatoliy for almost 2 hours.  It was a joy to hear his vision for starting new work in the city.

Later, we met up with another colleague who had driven down for the meeting.  We had lunch and then went to see the apartment where I will live.  It is in the center of the city, one block away from an incredibly beautiful park and within walking distance of many of other things in the downtown area.

We had dinner at the Tequila Boom, a Tex-Mex restaurant (also near the apartment!!!).  I was pleasantly surprised by their chips and salsa!  I enjoyed the steak and rice dinner.  Another colleague ordered nachos and a burrito with pinto beans.  (You don’t see pinto beans here often!!!)

The next morning, we met with a young man and his wife who have a small church group meeting in the center of the city.  They seem to be committed to the work the Lord has placed them in with lots of potential!

Afterwards, we walked to a bookstore nearby to purchase some maps of the city so that I can do further research and learn the city somewhat by the maps.  Overall, it was a great time.

As we walked back to our vehicle, we passed by a beautiful rose garden.  Ilya told us that during Soviet times, Donetsk was known as the City of Roses and they are trying to re-establish that idea.  I was impressed by the cleanliness and beauty of the city.

Checking out Donetsk

I am heading to Donetsk this Friday morning.  I will travel there with a couple of colleagues.  We have a couple of meetings with leaders there.  I am hopeful to see the apartment where I will live once I move to Donetsk.  Also, we are going to check out the city as well.

I hope to take some photos and will post more after I return on Saturday evening…